Messi stays at Barcelona: What does the future hold?
The world was on edge, waiting for Lionel Messi’s truth to emerge. For days, the football universe was transfixed by where the Argentine star was going to end up. In the end, he stays put, but nothing is the same.
Messi told Goal, in a world exclusive interview, that he craved the chance to play elsewhere, but president Josep Maria Bartomeu would not let him leave. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner believes he can technically walk away for free, but cannot face a bloody battle with his club in court over the escape clause in his contract.
Instead, against his will, he must play out the final year of his deal with Barcelona, the club of his life since moving to the Catalan capital from Rosario as a teenager.
So Messi stays. Now what?
What is next for the man of the hour? For Barcelona as a club which lives in Messi’s image? For the tainted chief Bartomeu?The new coach Ronald Koeman?The misfits Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann?
Starting with Messi, the first steps are small and obvious. He must take his PCR test for coronavirus, and then make his return to training. Messi did not attend the testing last Sunday, nor the first sessions under Koeman this week, in the belief that he was out of the Camp Nou madhouse.
He must speak to his team-mates, as the club captain, explaining his attempted departure, and confirming his commitment for this season. “He’s still in the group chat,” said Frenkie de Jong tentatively earlier in the week, unsure if Messi would still be a Barcelona player when he returned from international duty with the Netherlands.
If any Barcelona players are unhappy with the club’s talisman, it shouldn’t take too long to win them over, giving his standing as possibly the best player of all-time, Barcelona’s top scorer and an essential part of the team, one which they can’t do without if they are to win any silverware.
There may come a time where Messi must speak face to face with Bartomeu in the coming weeks, which will be an awkward encounter. The president does not like confrontations, so any painful exchanges will at least be brief.
In Goal’s interview the striker accused Bartomeu on going back on his word about letting Messi go, and criticised a regime which has squandered hundreds of millions of euros on inadequate players.
“The truth is that there has been no project or anything for a long time, they juggle everything and plug holes as they go along,” said Messi.
He will find a different dressing room when he returns to training, because the clear-out has begun. Ivan Rakitic is already a Sevilla player, his dear friend and neighbour Luis Suarez, whom he played padel with on Thursday afternoon, has been strongly linked to Juventus, while Arturo Vidal is being ushered out of the door too.
The winds of change are finally coming to Camp Nou, albeit a year or two too late.
Messi has already pledged that he will give his all to the club this season. “I will continue at Barca and my attitude will not change no matter how much I have wanted to go," Messi told Goal.
"I will do my best. I always want to win, I'm competitive and I don't like to lose anything. I always want the best for the club, for the dressing room and for myself." That’s the one quote from the interview that Barcelona’s official channels recognised, posting it under a photo of Messi in the new shirt.
Nobody should doubt whether Messi loves the good ship Barcelona; it’s those at the helm he does not trust. That might include Koeman, who has achieved nothing of note at club level, despite a good spell with the Dutch national team.
Messi must put his thoughts of leaving aside and give everything he’s got again this season, just as he has over the past two decades. He may be surrounded by new, youthful players, rough around the edges, like Ansu Fati and Pedri, but that vibrancy will help him at 33 as much as it might frustrate him too. He has to be the wise head on ageing shoulders.
At least he will be able to hear the applause he will get at stadiums around the country in his farewell year, as and when fans are allowed back into stadiums. If this is indeed his final year - when Bartomeu goes, the next president might convince Messi to stay. He can agree a deal with clubs like Manchester City, Inter or Paris Saint-Germain as soon as January, with club elections set for next March.
It remains to be seen whether they will be bumped forward again; there is a motion of no confidence against Bartomeu gathering pace. If Victor Font is appointed as the club’s next president, he will bring Xavi Hernandez in as the first team coach, and Messi can discuss his future with his friend and former team-mate. “We will reconstruct the club,” pledged Font, as an early bid to get Messi onside.
Koeman will be happy too. He may only get one season at Barcelona and the hopes of it being a good one are greatly increased by the Argentine’s presence, even if he may have to relent on his stance over ‘special treatment’ for Messi.
Nobody came out ahead in the public squabble between Barcelona and Messi but perhaps the biggest losers now are Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann. Both might have hoped for a clean slate and key roles in the project post-Messi, but now they must fit in alongside him again, in a year which will make or break them for good.
This resolution isn’t an easy fit for anyone, but at least the football world gets some closure. Messi’s last match did not deserve to be the 8-2 humiliation by Bayern Munich. He gets another go at a proper goodbye, and a chance to leave through the ‘puerta grande’, as they say in Spain.
Source : goal.com
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